Monday 24 July 2017

Students using Snapchat to share sexual assault stories in bid to raise awareness

The students have been sharing their harrowing and shocking stories on Facebook
The students have been sharing their harrowing and shocking stories on Facebook

Rachel Hosie

Female students at the University of Bristol are using Snapchat to share their stories of sexual assault and harassment in a bid to raise awareness of the topic.

Led by 23-year-old Hannah Price, who is Online Editor of the student paper, Epigram, the video aims to show just how widespread the problem is.

One woman explained that she’d been raped three times since starting university, adding that: “Every time it has been someone that I know, I liked or I loved.”

Using the familiarity of Snapchat, the women tell their shocking, harrowing, and for many, all too relatable stories.

“In my first term of freshers I walked a drunk friend home after a night out. I refused to let anything happen but he said, ‘It’s not rape - you want this,’” said one woman.

“I’ve lived in Bristol for about five years and since being a student here I've been raped again three times and assaulted a lot. Every time it happens it's been someone that I know, I like, I love and that I see all the time,” said another.

Using the familiarity of Snapchat, the women tell their shocking, harrowing, and for many, all too relatable stories.

“In my first term of freshers I walked a drunk friend home after a night out. I refused to let anything happen but he said, ‘It’s not rape - you want this,’” said one woman.

“I’ve lived in Bristol for about five years and since being a student here I've been raped again three times and assaulted a lot. Every time it happens it's been someone that I know, I like, I love and that I see all the time,” said another.

Some share their stories anonymously, using Bitmojis and Emojis to cover their faces, but some reveal their identities.

“It spotlights the sexual abuse, sexual harassment and sexism that lurks beneath the surface of university life, nationwide,” Price said.

The idea to use Snapchat came about in the hope that women would feel comfortable using a familiar social network.

Price, a mathematics student in her final year, also wanted to give victims a voice and make them feel like more than statistics.

“Sexual assault is such an important issue, it’s also a very common one,” Price told The Independent. “While at university, whenever the topic has been discussed with my girlfriends it was always met with ‘me too,’ or similar accounts.

“But I've watched as it has become increasingly normalised – with us all just shrugging it off. So I wanted to spark the conversation before everyone went silent on the issue.”

As Snapchat stories would usually disappear after 24 hours, Price compiled them into a video: “Snapchat gave the women a voice – it allowed them to still feel safe but to become more than just a statistic.”

And the response to the video has been phenomenal - as well as being picked up by various national news organisations, Price has received lots of positive feedback from both men and women.

“Within a few hours of posting the original story I was contacted by a male survivor from the university who wanted to tell me he was touched by the campaign and thanking me for raising the voice on the issue,” Price told The Independent.

Avon & Somerset Police have also been in touch to discuss helping with a campaign to make it easier for students to report sexual assault.

“The most important thing to me is about humanising the issue,” Price said.

A spokesperson for the University of Bristol said: “The welfare of our students is a top priority. We have a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment or violence of any form and clear policies in place to deal with complaints via our Unacceptable Behaviour Policy.

“We want to ensure that any student experiencing harassment or bullying knows how to report this and feels able to do so. We are now in the process of developing an online reporting tool for survivors of sexual violence and other forms of harassment, which will complement our existing processes.”

Independent News Service

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